USGA adds much-needed transparency to international team selection process

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: (top then bottom row left to right) Team captain John "Spider" Miller, Maverick McNealy, Will Zalatoris, Stewart Hagestad, Norman Xiong, Cameron Champ, Braden Thornberry, Doc Redman, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, and Doug Ghim pose with the Walker Cup Trophy after defeating the Great Britain and Ireland Team 19-7 at the 2017 Walker Cup on September 10, 2017 at the Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) Getty Images

USGA adds much-needed transparency to international team selection process

Amateur

USGA adds much-needed transparency to international team selection process

When former LSU standout Sam Burns was left off the U.S. Walker Cup team last summer, many called for more transparency in how the USGA selects its squad for the international team event.

The USGA listened. On Thursday, the governing body announced revisions to its selection process for not only the Walker Cup, but also the Curtis Cup and World Amateur Team Championships.

The changes, which will go into effect beginning with this fall’s World Amateur Team Championships, include adding official automatic exemptions for U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions, as well as McCormack Medal winners and highest-ranked amateurs in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The automatic selections add transparency to a process that has been criticized for its mostly-secretive nature, especially in the case of the Walker Cup.

Last summer, Burns wasn’t included on the 10-man U.S. squad that went on to win in a rout at Los Angeles Country Club, despite Burns winning the Nicklaus Award as college golf’s top player that year. Other notable snubs in recent years include John Peterson, who won the 2011 NCAA individual title but was not included on that year’s Walker Cup team.

Burns and Peterson, along with many others, were essentially left in the dark about why they weren’t included. The USGA hopes it can now provide more answers for players.

“The days of not talking about it are over,” John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, told Golfweek on Thursday via phone. “We need to be talking about these things.”

Bodenhamer said the USGA and its board members had discussed adding this transparency for a few years. “It wasn’t a matter of if we were going to do it, it was how and what would it look like,” he said.

In the case of the Walker Cup, there will now be as many as five automatic selections. Teams will again be selected in two segments – something that had been done in years past but not last year. The top three U.S. players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking will be announced to the team in early August, after such events as the Western Amateur and Porter Cup, and before the U.S. Amateur. The McCormack Medal winner and U.S. Amateur champion will be part of the second announcement, along with the five committee selections.

In a way, the USGA has considered these qualifications before. Last year’s Walker Cup team included every player who met the automatic criteria.

“But to have some more definitive guidance for them was really important,” Bodenhamer said.

“It just allows a player to know where he or she stands. If they achieve something by a certain time frame, they know they are going to be on the team.”

Bodenhamer said the USGA thought about making the first cutoff earlier in the summer, but wanted to give players more of a chance to prove themselves in summer amateur events, much like Jordan Niebrugge did in 2013 by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links, Wisconsin State Amateur and Western Amateur.

He also clarified that USGA events will officially carry more weight with the selection committee, and the captain will continue to not have a formal vote on who makes the team. However, the captain will provide “significant input.”

“And we will listen,” Bodenhamer said.

Character will also factor heavily into the selection process, as it always has.

“We think it’s critical that whomever we select, that they represent both our country and the USGA appropriately with proper character, sportsmanship, integrity and all of those things,” Bodenhamer said.

Here’s a closer look at the selection criteria:

(Note: All selections assume the player is a U.S. citizen and remains an amateur through the event.)

WORLD AMATEUR TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

Three-person teams for men, women

  • Highest-ranked U.S. player in WAGR will be automatically named to each respective team, as of the July 25 WAGR update for women and the Aug. 1 WAGR update for men
  • U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and U.S. Amateur champion will be automatically named to each respective team
  • Men’s and women’s Mark H. McCormack Medal winners (WAGR world No. 1) will be automatically named to each respective team (named immediately after each U.S. Amateur)
  • Any other remaining selections will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) Committee

WALKER CUP

10-person team selected in two segments in August

  • Top three ranked U.S. players in WAGR (as of early August) will be automatically named to the team
  • That year’s U.S. Amateur champion will be automatically named to the team
  • That year’s Mark H. McCormack Medal winner (WAGR world No. 1) will be automatically named to the team (named immediately after U.S. Amateur)
  • The remaining selections, which will include at least one mid-amateur player, will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) Committee

CURTIS CUP

Eight-person team selected all at once in spring

  • That year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur champion will be automatically named to the team
  • Top three ranked U.S. players in WAGR (as of team selection date) will be automatically named to the team
  • That year’s Mark H. McCormack Medal winner (WAGR world No. 1) will be automatically named to the team (named immediately after U.S. Women’s Amateur)
  • The remaining selections will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) Committee

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